What is 508 compliance? Your Website Needs to be 508 Compliant, Here’s Why!

 29 Jun, 2021

Introduction

Almost 61 million people in the United States live with a disability. It’s like one in every 4 people (like 26%) have some kind of disability. In such an uncalled event, having equal access to any web and digital material is very crucial for businesses that deal with the public at large.

Whether you are a banking, HR, finance, legal, customer service, or any business where you require to interact with the public, your digital assets need to meet section 508 of the United States Workforce rehabilitation act.

If you are a federal agency or have dealings with such agencies on an ongoing basis, you need to be 508 compliant. But what is this 508 compliance? and why it is used for? Being 508 compliant makes sure that whoever people (inclusive of people with disabilities) interact with your website, should have clear communication and user experience.

Section 508 of the rehabilitation act ensures the distribution of electronic and information technology (ICT) should be accurate and accessible even for people with disabilities.

So if you are still under confusion about section 508 of the rehabilitation act, this detailed guide on section 508 compliance will help you get through with:

  • What is 508 compliance?
  • Or What is 508 compliant?
  • Why is sectioning 508 compliant important?
  • What happens if you are not?
  • What businesses need to be section 508 compliant?
  • What documents are covered under section 508?
  • How to achieve 508 compliance for your business?
  • And so much more...

What is 508 Compliance? You May Ask!

Federal government agencies under the Section 508 of the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act, amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 need to develop and maintain the information and communications technology (ICT) in a way that they can be accessed by people with disabilities, regardless of the fact whether they work with such federal agencies or not. 

Even if you sell to organizations, getting fundings from the Federal government, you still have to indirectly be 508 compliant. Whether you are working for the federal government, are in the private sector, or a nonprofit firm, being 508 Compliant and following accessibility best practices for all types of audience should be considered, way before designing and development stages.

Even if you don’t fall into the category of section 508, as a company operating for the public benefit, you should provide an equal user experience digitally

508 compliance requires federal agencies to make their technology, websites, and online training accessible to everyone.

508 compliant websites or electronic media ensures that people who are blind or have partial visions, deaf, or have other cognitive disabilities can easily access the website & online resources just like others, without any difficulty.

Section 508 compliance applies to the equal accessibility of the “information and communication technology” to all.  It states anything that falls under the category of Information and communication technology (ICT), from digital documents, printers to any software, everything has to be made accessible for a vast audience.

Here’s What ICT all includes:

  • Intranet & internet Websites 
  • Software & operating systems
  • PDF documents, online training materials
  • Remote access websites & tools
  • User Guides for software & tools
  • Fax machines, copiers, printers
  • Tablet, laptop, desktop computers
  • Online training, webinars, teleconferences
  • Televisions
  • DVD players
  • Videotaped productions

For Whom Being 508 Complaint is Mandatory?

Being section 508 compliant is mandatory for federal agencies as well as other companies who do business with such agencies. These companies can be inclusive of private contractors, legal firms, healthcare, financial, or any other industry’s organizations.

What are the Rules of 508 compliance?

The rules of 508 compliance govern that all the federal agencies and their related business partners are deemed to make their digital assets accessible to everyone, to everyone with or without any disabilities.

In correspondence with the Rehabilitation Act, the federal agencies websites should make whatever adjustments necessary so that:

  • An employee with a disability can comprehend the digital tasks
  • A candidate with a disability can apply for the job openings
  • The employees can access all the digital information equally

The federal website design and content should be:

  1. Perceivable:- The website design, content should be displayed in a way that people with hearing, vision, or any cognitive disability can also understand and explore the web.
  2. Understandable:- All the design, content should be easy to understand for people with disabilities.
  3. Navigable:- People with disabilities should be able to navigate the website through keyboard-only navigation or any assistive technology.
  4. Scope of improvement:- All the web should focus on continuing more accessibility developments to make the website adaptable to current standards and adaptable to people with disabilities by improving the assistive technology support.

What Documents are Covered Under the 508 Compliant Section?

Any digital document that a company establishes under the Section 508 jurisdiction needs to be 508 compliant. This can include a combination of the website content, gaming systems, computer software, apps, or PDF form of printed copies (but only if they have undergone accessibility fixes by experts, as they are difficult to access by screen readers).

508 Compliance Updates - What You Should Know?

Federal government agencies back in 2018, on January 18 issued an important notice of section 508 compliance, which required compliance from federal agencies and contractors.

The updates of 508 compliance includes:

 The 2018 update states that people with disabilities are obliged to get full access to digital channels like emergency bullets, intranets, official receipts, employment opportunities, and training materials.

Here are other more overarching updates:

  • Tools & Technology Alignment:- The updated 508 compliance states the devices, software, and operating systems operated by applicable parties must have interoperable assistive technology.
  • Improved Web Content Accessibility:- All public-facing organizations that fall under the category of official agency business must have accessible content as per Section 508’s accessibility standards.
  • WGAC -Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA Incorporation:- The incorporation of WCAG into Section 508 helps organizations publish accessible websites, documents, content, apps & other software according to established technical standards for web accessibility.
  • Harmony with Global Marketplace:- To comply with the global standards like WCAG 2.0, harmonizing the 508 compliance section with international regulations like European Commission’s ICT Standards (EN 301 549).

How to Establish Section 508 Compliance?

While you focus on your core tasks, you can select an accessible document partner who stands by the belief that quality accessible documents to all customers.

Look for reliable accessibility companies that can help you create an effective plan on how you can achieve & maintain section 508 compliance, to honor all requisites of legal procedures and protect your reputation.

Thereafter, you have to ensure that your website is clearly meeting the 508 WCAG 2.0 AA standards. You can partner with a professional web development company that can help you with such needs.

Make sure the professional ADA accessibility company you hire helps you with end-to-end document remediation services and runs the necessary section 508 compliance checks through careful legal bindings.

What to Keep in Check While Comprehending 508 Compliance for Web?

Communication should be the utmost priority while layering the website’s accessibility. The accessibility consultants and web developers should work together to create a digital product that meets your brand’s standards while also complying with section 508 compliance. 

Design elements such as color palette, fonts, image alt text, screen timeouts, and others need to be planned and executed in a manner where communication is clear, accessible, and accurate for everyone.

How to Test your Website for 508 Compliance?

With professional website design and accessibility experts, you must plan manual and automated testing to ensure Section 508 compliance is duly addressed. 

Automated scans could be done to identify the accessibility issues or to ensure the website doesn’t fall short  of compliance. 

Along with that, manual testing methods should be equally adopted to check the user experience from real people’s perspectives. While manual testing, it is important for you to ensure that your website is compatible with assistive technologies, screen readers, keyboard-only navigation, and more.

There are even a couple of tools online like web accessibility that gives you compliance score and puts some recommendations for you, which you can take to a professional federal website design agency, and use them to plan and kickstart an accessible user experience for your customers.

What Happens If Your Website Fails to Be Section 508 Compliant?

If your website violates the section 508 standards, you can receive a fine between $55,000-$75,000, for the first time. And it could be $150,000 or more if you keep up with the dismissal.

In most cases, federally funded businesses could even lose their funding. And also when people see your insensitiveness towards disabled sections of society, this can impact their retention and purchase decisions with your business somehow.

Final Thoughts on Section 508 Compliance!

Being section 508 compliant is a much-needed thing for all forms of businesses outside the federal structure, which serve in the public interest.

Accessibility to online and offline material is a basic right for everyone. People with disabilities should not be treated any less and should have equal access to any online or digital content. This was the reason why section 508 of the workforce rehabilitation act was enforced: to ensure that all the people with or without disabilities are given equal opportunity to participate in the society and are receiving the amenities in equal proportions, be it job, fundamental rights, or digital content.

Every business website today should emphasize on making its website effortless, communicative, and accessible for all. 

Our team of professional web designers and developers knows the full design elements of a website that’s creative, accessible, and functional. If you wish to either have an old website revamped or a completely accessible website made, contact us, and we will captivate you with our free estimates & project analysis.

Comments down below about anything you wish to share or ask around “what is 508 compliant”!

Also Read: Complete Guide to ADA compliance

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L

Louis Anderson

I don’t even have any idea of what this 508 Compliance is, but thanks to this post now I know very much about it.

J

Jorge Hall

508 Compliance is shorthand for a law to make federal government websites to be safe and accessible for people with disabilities.

B

Bryan Garcia

Now I understand the importance of section 508 compliance.

J

Josue Rodriguez

How to check whether my Website aligns with Section 508 Compliant?

H

Holden White

How do I come to know if my Website Fails to be Section 508 Compliant?

R

Rafael Lewis

Before going through your blog I had just heard about the name of 508 compliance. Thanks to you! Now I have a clear understanding of what is 508 compliance.

K

Kyle Lee

What is the importance of 508 compliance? Can you share some links related to it?

E

Emilio Davis

Thanks for the information! This article is really helpful and informative.

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